Gillard yesterday made her first spending promise:
In her first major speech of the campaign for the August 21 election, Ms Gillard yesterday promised to reallocate $200m from existing housing programs to give 15 regional communities grants to improve local housing and infrastructure, enabling them to attract residents to fill jobs.
Note that the funds will be reallocated, there will be no new funds for this one. Or any other election promise that involves spending, according to Gillard.
Abbott has to do better than that, because he is promising to bring the budget back into the black earlier than Labor and pay off the debt, because he and his advisors know better than the body of expert opinion that says there is still a need for stimulus and that there is a significant risk of a double dip in the world recession.
So his big pitch on Sunday was that they had found $47 billion worth of savings in the budget.
He should explain exactly where these savings are coming from, but meanwhile voters could be forgiven for believing Gillard that to elect Abbott will see the BER, the National Broadband Network and a number of other Labor initiatives down the crapper. That includes some valuable initiatives in health.
But the net effect is that Abbott will be able to offer a series of handouts during the election, strategically placed to maximise swinging votes in the best Howard-Costello tradition.
For example, the Toowoomba bypass tunnel and road he announced on Friday.
There are two things to note about this announcement. The first is that according to a study commissioned be the Howard Government completed in May 2009, the project is a dud:
The much-anticipated Toowoomba Bypass appears to have been rejected with the Rudd Government citing a study which finds the $1.75 billion project cost as “commercially unattractive”.
In a media statement issued on Friday, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said a report commissioned by the former Howard Government had found “the project’s direct economic costs outweigh its direct economic benefits – resulting in a negative economic value”.
The second thing is that under Labor, the Government as such does not make the decision, it is made by Infrastructure Australia, a body Labor set up to get away from the iniquitous pork-barrelling of the Howard years:
The report has been sent to Infrastructure Australia to determine whether or not the project should be included on its National Priority List.
So elect Abbott and welcome to the past. We will indeed be ‘moving backwards’.
It is possible that with the Coal Seam Gas industry exploding all over the Toowoomba hinterland, the need for the road may increase and the economic argument become more favourable. But it should be a deliberative rational decision, not the gift of politicians seeking votes.